Toby Keith's passion for the military is long and deep. Five years into his career he decided to do his first USO Tour, and 143 USO shows later he is still going back. When asked recently by the BBC if he finds progress every time he returns, Keith spoke about the changes he has seen take place overseas.
"Depends on where we go but when you see people getting their freedom, when you see highways being built," Keith says. "What's crazy is the more blacktop roads we can build over there, the less the bad guys can travel 'cause bad guys won't blow up the interstates 'cause they're nice and new and they want to have fast, good quality roads to travel on so we're constantly building highways, schools, hospitals, so I see progress."
This is the time of the year Keith gets really excited to go overseas, despite the tiring aspect of the trips. "You get over there and it happens so fast, you're so busy, and after two weeks you're pretty exhausted," Keith says.
On one of Keith's first USO Tours years ago, the country singer did things like going to a hospital in Kosovo. One year later they found themselves in the "hot spot" of Fallujah where no one else would go. Keith said, "We were baptism under fire ... They had no infrastructure there, no lights up, they gave us a little blue light that hung around your neck so you could see where you were going. It was totally dark and I played in a burnt out theater. Some terrorists teaching theater that had been hit, that Marines had converted it into their wreck hall."
As for the forces out there fighting for our freedom, the 'American Soldier' singer adds, "They go get their gear on and hit the road. They still do it every day. They still get up and they're willing to go do it. God speed and God bless them!"
For the past 70 years, The United Service Organization (USO) has been sending entertainers over seas to perform for U.S. forces. Keith is just one of many following in the footsteps of greats like Bob Hope, Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart.